Faculty Involvement in the Legislative Process. or Professor Smith Goes to Sacramento
Legislators receive ideas for bills from many sources -it could be a concern that they know about personally, it might be from a constituent, or it could be from a lobbying group. Education is a "hot button" in politics-everyone wants an educated citizenry and work force. Many bills are introduced each session that deal with education-most of them seem to be about K-12 issues, but a good number overlap the K-12 and higher education segments, and many of them deal with higher education issues exclusively.
Faculty advocacy for legislation works several different ways. We are fortunate to have several faculty organizations for whom the major, if not primary, role of the group is to watch out for legislation-CTA, CFT (Judy Michaels, I love ya), FACCC (Jonathan Lightman, you're the tops, and Jennifer Baker, we are all going to miss you so much). The community colleges also benefit from weekly meetings of the Legislative Advocates, which includes faculty groups and other organizations such as CSEA, the McCallum Group and CCLC, at the System Office to discuss issues and legislation that affect community colleges. we don't always agree on issues, but there is a healthy respect for each other and we all benefit from the exchange of information.
The Academic Senate has an active role in all this advocacy. We participate in the Legislative Advocates meeting, provide written and spoken testimony to the Legislature, are in attendance at senate and Assembly committee hearings, and send email alerts to faculty leadership via ASCCC Legislative Alerts and Updates. Many of these activities are part of the charge of the ASCCC Legislative Committee which I chair. The committee members and I do our best to keep you informed (note to self: get on the stick and do more!).
Another vital use of the faculty expertise is to mold legislation to be more effective and benefit students. Legislators might have good ideas, but it is even better when faculty are included in the legislation process so that we can contribute to the legislation to make it more effective for student success-the richness of the faculty is invaluable. I can't thank you all enough. I can cite examples of bills where we have worked early in the bill process with a legislator's staff and the result has been great-a win-win for all involved. There have also been instances where I grit my teeth and wondered where people were getting their information. In community college issues, especially those dealing with academic and professional matters, THEY NEED TO TALK WITH THE FACULTY!
OK, I will get off my soapbox now. I want to end this message with a big thanks to some of the faculty that I have worked with this year on legislation. Kate, Jane, Julie, Deanna, Roberta, Dave, Shaaron-you are just a few of the many faculty that have contributed so much to bills in the past year. I look forward to working with you and other faculty in the future.
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